Dear Mr. Gold:
Over the holidays, I visited my parents in northern Virginia, where there are numerous places to get delicious Bolivian salteñas. I've lived in Los Angeles for five years and have never seen or heard mention of these juicy, flavorful empanadas. Donde estan las salteñas?
Dear Mr. C.:
Salteñas? Why not? Bolivian cooking has its charms, including spicy stews enriched with the spongy, freeze-dried potatoes called chuños; delicious guinea-pig dishes; and cinnamon-scented cheese tamales called humintas, but the salteña, a triangular baked pastry stuffed with olives and seasoned ground meat, is probably the national dish, the one Bolivian foodstuff that you are likely to see on a menu in Argentina or Peru. (I've never quite made it to Bolivia, but I have enjoyed salteñas — and the rest — in Puno, which lies just on the other side of Lake Titicaca from Bolivia on the Andean altiplano.) Salteñas have never been common in Los Angeles — for years, the only place you could find them was at a North Hollywood tango bar — but Beba's is a decent Bolivian restaurant, and the salteñas are quite good.
BEBA'S | 6024 Hazeltine Ave., Van Nuys | (818) 786-1511 | bebasrestaurant.com